Saturday, April 21, 2012

Treasured Memories

“How much longer will it be Mom?” asked Jimmy, wiggling around in the back seat.

“We’ll be there in about an hour, honey.”

Watching him brought back memories of my own impatience as a child, while making these trips with my mom and dad many years ago.

Visiting my grandparents was always like entering a little piece of heaven. I could envision Grandma with her long snow-white hair, pulled up in a tight bun at the back of her head. She would be wearing her apron tied around her plump waist, as she busied herself cooking and fussing over all the details of the dinner she would serve to us later. She would have taken out her heirloom china, only used on special occasions, and displayed all the pieces beautifully on the table. 

Grandpa always handpicked the vegetables from his own crops, so the feast was bound to include hot corn-on-the-cob, dripping with butter. Steaming mashed potatoes piled high, peas, green beans, and carrots all seasoned to perfection. Crispy fried chicken battered in Grandma’s secret ingredients, homemade buttermilk biscuits drizzled with honey and apple pies baked golden brown; fresh from the oven. I could almost smell the mouth-watering aromas.

This would be Jimmy’s first summer that he would spend on my grandparent’s small country farm. 

Our trip to get there took us down long winding gravel roads, overlooking vast expanses of corn waving in the breeze, beckoning to be harvested and rolling pastures with grazing cattle and horses either standing under shade trees, or wading ankle-deep at the edges of their watering holes. The scenery here never ceased to take my breath away.

When we began to explore the farm, Jimmy was sure to ask about the old one-footed duck. This part of the country endured a harsh winter a few years back. Swirling sleet and snow left behind a thick layer of ice on the ramp leading up to the chicken-coop. It must have been like trying to climb the frozen slopes of Mount Everest for the duckling. Grandpa found her huddled and trembling beneath it, after her attempt to climb the ramp to no avail. He had gently picked her up, wrapped her frostbitten feet as best he could, and placed her inside the warm nest among the older ducks and cackling chickens. The next morning she was alive and doing fine, but she would lose her left foot.

I was excited about taking Jimmy on a tour of the outhouse. I suspected his adventures this summer would lead him to be on the lookout there for spiders and creepy-crawly bugs of every description in its dark confines; an experience only a child could understand, or enjoy. Grandpa preferred that old outhouse, to the more modern facilities inside the house. I still don’t know why, but the thought always puts a smile on my face.

“Gather up all your things Jimmy, we’re almost there,” I said, interrupting his rapt attention to the passing scenery. 

“Ok, Mom,” hurrying to do so, but looked back up as we turned into the driveway. “Hey Mom, is that the tree you used to climb when you were little?”

“Yes, it certainly is,” I replied, wondering if I could still climb it, but knowing Jimmy would climb it many times over the next few weeks. I prayed his daydreams while doing so, would take him to wonderful places only found inside the dreams of little boys. The limbs of that ole oak tree with its gnarly branches stretching out every which-way, had a magic all its own. If he sits still long enough, birds and squirrels would scamper and come to rest along beside him among the branches. 

My mother and her ten siblings had all been born and raised here in this home. Jimmy would be the third, and most likely the last generation in our family to visit this little piece of heaven. Love flowed here like warm molasses and its treasured memories would linger in all our hearts forever. 

My grandparents were standing on the porch waiting. Grandma wiped her hands on her apron, and dabbed at her eyes, in an attempt to hide her tears of joy. Grandpa stood behind her, with his hands in the pockets of his pants, trying to act nonchalant, but the big smile on his face gave his true feelings away. As the car came to a stop, Jimmy jumped out and ran into their waiting embrace.

*Authors notes…This particular trip and Jimmy are fictitious. However, all the descriptions of my beloved grandparents, the scenery, the mouth-watering food, the one–footed duck, the outhouse, and the ole oak tree are all my real-life - Treasured Memories.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It's all downhill from here!

May 3rd-
Yesterday was my 50th birthday! Yep, the big Five-O! They say, “It’s all downhill from here”. I sure hope so. 

It’s time I get serious and start making tough decisions about what, how, and where my life is supposed to go from here. I started this journal to keep track of my progress.

I’ll be praying that the Lord begins to open doors and shows me what He wants me to do with the rest of this life He has given me.

May 8th-
Be careful what you pray for, you might get it! Pastor has asked me to lead a women’s group. I told her that I would pray about it, and let her know. 

As honored as I am, I think she’s lost her mind! Does she have me confused with someone else who is qualified to do this sort of thing? 

What happens if I mess up? What if I open my big mouth and stick the whole shoe-store in it? What if I make a fool out of myself?

May 15th- 
Every time I think about it, my stomach does flip-flops, and the unrelenting fear sends chills down my spine. “Can I do this? ‘Should I do this?” 

Keep praying!

May 22nd-
After much prayer, I have reluctantly agreed to lead the group. The Lord is showing me glimpses of the blessings this group could yield. 

May 29th-
Five women came to our first meeting tonight. We sat quietly around the table with our Bibles open before us; all eyes were on me. Fear gripped my heart like a malicious tap-dance inside my chest. 

Then, His peace enveloped me and my heart stopped it’s dance. We studied our lesson, shared our struggles and victories, and said our tear-filled prayers. 

I have hope.

June 3rd-
My stomach’s doing those stupid flip-flops again! These women are depending on me to teach them lessons I don’t have victory over in my own life! What was I thinking? This feels like the blind leading the blind. 

I’m embarrassed and I hate letting them down. I truly love these women, and want to help them, but I can’t do this! I’m going to tell Pastor that I’ve changed my mind. 

“I quit!” 

June 5th-
I told Pastor how much I appreciated her giving me the opportunity, but I wasn’t capable of leading the group, and hoped she could find someone who was more qualified.

She looked me straight in the eyes and said, “God does not call the perfected, He only calls the willing”, and she walked away. Talk about having the wind knocked out of you! 

Her words shocked me, but I could feel the Lord’s presence surrounding me. He had used her to say exactly what I needed to hear. 

Now that I think about it, it is precisely what He’s been whispering into my heart for weeks. He knew I needed one final push out of my comfort zone. 

I do believe the Lord has called and chosen me to do this, and I am willing. He knows my deepest desire and heart’s cry is for Him to use my life. With His strength and guidance, I will continue to make a difference in these precious women’s lives. 

My faith and trust in Him is growing. 

November 20th-
Wow! It’s been months since I’ve written here. I’ve been so busy and so blessed!

More women have joined us on our journey to become all we are destined to be and do. Each week the Lord reveals a little more of what His glorious plans are for our lives, and He is giving us the strength to accomplish it. 

The truth is, I have stuck my foot in my mouth, fumbled, and been tongue-tied more times than I’d like to admit. On more than one occasion, I’ve realized I wasn’t as ready as I should have been. This downhill journey does have its share of twists, turns, and bumps in the road. 

Nevertheless, I will continue stepping out in faith, and He will use me to change these women’s lives, and offer them hope for a better future.

Thank you Father, even though I am far from being perfect, You are using my heart’s desire and willingness to serve You, and together we are changing lives, one precious life at a time.

*Authors notes - This is a condensed and fictionalized version of my real life’s story and ministry testimony.
This won 1st place -Beginners Level - in the Faithwriter's "Achievement" Challenge Award 3-22-12

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

“Oh! My goodness!” She threw her hands up in an attempt to keep the debris from hitting her. “What in the world. . . ? ” asking no one in particular. Every instinct told her to run, but instead she stepped around those standing in front of her, so she could get a better look.

Pam had left home only moments ago, walking fast, not only because it was cold, but because she was late. She had a bad habit of waiting until the last minute to go meet Jimmy at school. Walking a little faster, a couple more blocks and she would be there; right on time. Praying the flash cards she’d spent hours driving him crazy with, had helped him pass his spelling test today. 

The explosion stopped her in her tracts. It sounded like the whole world had come apart at the seams. The building across the street exploded; with so much force it nearly knocked her off her feet. Glass and bricks were flying. As the dust settled, she could see injured people stumbling out trying to find a safe place, as far away as they could get. 

Instead of running back up the street, or standing in a daze like the others, Pam moved forward, ready to do what she knew was coming . . . 

She was a nurse. However, when she found out she was pregnant; she and her husband Mark had decided that she should stay home with their baby. Being Jimmy’s full-time mommy was so much more important than the extra money she had been earning. It sure wasn’t easy, but they had tightened their belts, and were doing pretty good. She knew she would eventually go back to her nursing career as soon as Jimmy entered middle school; by then he wouldn’t need her so much. 

Now, in the aftermath of the explosion, all her years of training came flooding back. She knew exactly what she had to do. She started out slowly, but then broke into a run when she saw a woman stumble and start to fall. Pam was able to get there just in time to keep her from hitting the ground, easing her down slowly.

“It’s gonna be ok” she whispered calmly, as she took her coat off and placed it over the woman to keep her warm. 

The woman’s clothes were a mess. Her head and hair were soaked in blood. Pam began to carefully move the hair away from what looked like a pretty nasty cut on her head. It was bleeding pretty badly. She quickly applied steady pressure to the wound. The ambulances were on the way, she could hear the sirens in the distance. 

Pam looked into the woman’s face, making eye contact “What’s your name?”

“Laura”, the woman answered weakly, trying to sit up and turn around, attempting to look in the direction of the building. “What happened?”

“Let’s not worry about that right now Laura” Pam said quickly, preventing her from moving, trying to keep her calm. The pressure she had been applying to the wound had worked; the bleeding had stopped; thank God. 

The ambulances finally arrived; paramedics jumped out, and were on their way over. It had taken them longer than it should have; heavy traffic had prevented them from getting there sooner. As they approached, she told them she was a nurse, and what she had done for Laura. Relieved, she could now turn the patient over to them. 

Alert now, Laura touched Pam’s hand, smiled, and thanked her. “You saved my life”, tears glistening in her eyes. 

“I’m glad I was here to help” Pam said, as she stood up and backed away; giving the guys room to work. Laura would have a pretty bad headache and endure a few stitches, but Pam knew she would be just fine. 

Then it hit her, “Oh! I’ve got to go get Jimmy” and bolted off toward the school.

Jimmy was standing on the school steps waiting impatiently. He ran to meet her, and jumped up into her arms. “Mommy, where have you been? You were late” 

Not knowing how to answer his question without giving him the details, but finally said. “I’m sorry I was late honey; Jesus sent me on an errand today, and it kept me pretty busy for a while”.

“Hey! How’d you do on your spelling test today?” she asked, changing the subject.

“I got an A!” Jimmy said proudly, “Guess those flash cards helped, huh?”

Monday, March 12, 2012

Jesus is Killing Me
You know...that old me...
with all the shackles 
and chains on her life.

You know... that old me...
who wants to rant and rave and 
have fits and pity-parties, 
so she can have her own way.

You know...that old me...
who is proud, and conceited,
who has exalted herself
 above the knowledge of God.

You know...that old me...
who is jealous,
 and full of strife and unforgiveness.

You know...that old me...
who is self-centered,
self-indulgent and fearful.

You know...that old me...
who is insane...
Doing the same things
 over and over again
expecting a different result.

Oh!...thank you Jesus... 
you're showing me little glimpses
of the promised land.

So, help me, Lord Jesus...Please...
keep killing that old me.

Because I know...
those shackles on her feet...
keep me from going 
where you want me to go.

Because I know...
those chains on her wrists...
keep me from doing 
what you want me to do.

Help me, Lord Jesus...Please...
keep killing that old me.

Friday, March 9, 2012

“Have you lost your mind?” Ronny whispered, doing his best to keep his voice as quiet as possible, then turned and quietly closed the door behind him. “What are you thinking? Besides we couldn’t get away with that in a bazillion years!” 

Ronny leaned over, put his ear to the door and waited, letting out a sigh of relief when he didn’t hear anything. He turned around just in time to see John flop down hard on the bed, making the poor cat bounce up and run off to hide. 

“I haven’t lost my mind, you’re just a chicken” John said, with that pouty face he was so good at making. “Besides, who says we can’t pull it off?”

John leapt up off the bed, ran across the room to his desk; searching frantically through all the mess. “Yes! Here it is” snatching up the report, turning around and thrusting it into his brothers’ reluctant hands. 

“Please, read this” John begged. “I did all the work, all you have to do is stand up there and read it to the class” continuing to beg, “You just gotta do this for me, if you don’t I’m gonna get in trouble…Big-Time! Mom and Dad’ll clobber me if Mrs. Johnson doesn’t give me a good grade on this stupid thing” he said, with a whiny voice, and looking at Ronny with those big puppy-dog eyes he always used to get his way. 

“Whatever” Ronny mumbled, shrugging his shoulders. 

Ronny knew Mom and Dad wouldn’t clobber John, but they would be disappointed, and he really hated it when they were disappointed, even when it involved his lame-brained brother. 

Both of them enjoyed being an identical twin. Pulling pranks was one of the best things about it, and boy had they pulled off some good ones over the years. After all, most folks couldn’t tell them apart, especially if they were wearing the same clothes. 

“So, what we gotta do is figure out how to sneak out and switch rooms at the right time, Ok?” John asked, wiggling and waving his arms around, encouraging Ronny to come up with some ideas. 

“Wait a minute!” Ronny said, trying one more time to talk some sense into his brother. “This is serious; don’t you remember Dad just told us the other day not to lie? Ever! For any reason!”

“This ain’t lyin, it’s like pullin another joke on em,” John said, waving him off.

Monday 6:30 am . . .

John hopped out of bed, ran over and shook Ronny vigorously, who was laying there stiff and motionless, with his tongue lolling out of the side of his mouth.

“Oh, come on, you ain’t dead”, “Get up!” John said, giving him another swat. 

“I’m not feelin so good,” Ronny groaned weakly, “Maybe I got a cold or something”

“You ain’t sick either, you’re just tryin to chicken out again” John scoffed.

“Argh!” Ronny reluctantly rolled out of bed.

Monday 10:15 am . . .

John raised his hand, waving it around in the air. 

“Yes, John?” Mrs. Johnson said, finally responding.

“May I go to the restroom” squirming around in his seat.

“Yes, but you get right back here. We’re going to start giving our oral reports in just a few minutes.” 

John ran as fast as he could, and skid to a stop in front of the restroom door, entered and found Ronny already there frantically undressing. With a flurry of shirts and shoes flying around and hastily being passed between them, finally managing to swap clothes and re-dress.

“Ready?” John asked.

“No!” But let’s go ahead and get this dumb thing over with.” Ronny answered.

Monday 10:25 am . . .

They peaked out of the bathroom door. Satisfied that no one was around, they took off running as fast as they could back to each others classrooms.

As Ronny walked into John’s classroom, Mrs. Johnson looked over and said. “Oh good, you’re back, I’d like for you to give your oral report next”.

Ronny walked slowly over to John’s desk to get his brothers report…

Miss Johnson, pausing to take a second look at him, and then smiling said “John? Excuse me, could you please tell me why your shirt is on backwards, and what in the world happened to your shoes?” 


This was featured in this weeks FaithWriters Jewel Chest

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Two Forces
I find myself between two forces,
Being pulled in two different,
Opposite directions.

Which way do I go, which path do I take?
My flesh says this way, my spirit says no.
One leads to death, the other to life.
Must take these thoughts captive,
Or find myself hostage.

I find myself between two forces,
Being pulled in two different,
Opposite directions.

One leads to freedom, the other to bondage.
My courage is failing, the fear is assailing!
My spirit is willing, this flesh is weak.
One seems wrong, the other right.
Could I have this backwards?

I find myself between two forces,
Being pulled in two different,
Opposite directions.

Do I stand here firm, or do I run?
My spirit says stand and fight,
My flesh says run…Take flight!
Where do I go to find the answers?
Who do I trust, who do I turn to?

I find myself between two forces,
Being pulled in two different,
Opposite directions.

They say He is the Way,
He is the Truth, and
He is the Life,
Could He
Be the answer?

I find myself between two forces,
Being pulled in two different,
Opposite directions.

It’s not about me?
Not by my power or might,
But what He does for me,
And what He does through me?
Could that be the answer?

I find myself between two forces,
Being pulled in two different,
Opposite directions.

If the battle is His, then my fight is over,
The battle is won, the victory sure!
He shows me the Way, I follow.
He reveals the Truth, I listen.
Now my Life is secure!

I am no longer
Being pulled in two different,
Opposite directions.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Today is the first day of the rest of my life...what should I do with it?